Amy Julia, a white woman, leans in close to her teenage daughter Penny, who has Down syndrome. They are outside wearing winter coats and hats and are surrounded by smiling women

Changing Prepositions (from “for” to “with”)

As a part of an ongoing desire to honor Penny’s capacities as an adult with Down syndrome, I’m learning to change my prepositions.

I keep catching myself talking about things that I will do “for” Penny. I’ll make an appointment for her. Or I will fill out a form for her. Make her lunch for her.

But the decision not to petition for guardianship for her served as a wakeup call. If the state is going to treat her as an adult, then I need to adjust my behavior—and my language—to acknowledge that she is indeed a capable young woman.

She still needs support, which is why we’ve cobbled together a form of supported decision making where she has protection and guidance, especially in the medical and financial realms. But the language I want to use to describe this depends on the word “with”, not “for.”

When I catch myself saying I will do something for Penny, I have started to ask whether instead I can do it with her, or whether she can do it for herself.

The simple adjustment of a preposition can make a big difference in how much agency we allow our daughter to live into.

(And honestly, this same adjustment is relevant in my relationship with all three of our kids! Just, as usual, a bit magnified when it comes to Penny.)

group of women and girls wearing coats and winter hats and smiling for a selfie in the woods


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